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Manchester City and European Soccer Arrive in a moment of reckoning



MANCHESTER, England – Stack up the jargon and the euphemisms and the disorientating forest of acronyms, tune the noise from the claim and counterclaim and strident denial, choose one way through the laborious details and the tangled minutiae, and a simple fact appears

The report last week that UEFA is studying not so much of a fix as its overall crown reset, the Champions League, is not an administrative story about the format of the competition. The New York Times report, on Monday, that Manchester City may be banned from the same tournament is not a story about violations of rules or misleading financial statements or malicious emancipation.

It is similar to something broader and, in a way, easier to understand. The same is about a struggle for control, between UEFA – the body that administered European soccer over the decades – and the globe-straddling, rich superclubs that make its profits.

Both about power, and who can strive. The same is about who is running soccer – where the name, and for which benefit.

Last week, despite the fact that the Champions League is the most dramatic few days in his current incarnation ever made, most major European leagues have come out against the plan to change the competition. UEFA immediately insisted that this is part of a consultation process. Each one gets a say. It's just an idea. There is nothing in the rock. The panic abated. The rage is gone. Nothing changed, not immediately: Tottenham beat Ajax, League of Leagues is still as good. The world is open.

On Tuesday, Manchester City repeatedly denied any offense. Ever since the accusations first appeared on the Football Leaks whistle-blowing platform, the club continued to dismiss all the allegations that the sponsorship deals had been intensified to comply with so-called financial fair balances play created by UEFA to manage club spending. [19659002] In a statement describing the accusation of any financial regularities as "totally false," the City said it was very concerned with the fact that The Times mentioned "people familiar with the case."

Either the club's "good faith" with independent investigators reporting to UEFA was misplaced, Manchester City said, or the process was "consciously aimed at individual goals that would damage the club's reputation and in its commercial interests, or both. "UEFA was not commented on the Times article.

However, focusing on the existence of disadvantages is neglected, as the debate on the realization of financial fair play rules – if European soccer requires someone to say it owners of how to spend their money – is, and such a misunderstanding whether the Champions League will be better or worse if it was played on a Saturday or a week ago.

It's not ridiculous to think that FFP is a natural anti-competitive measure. It is not absurd to believe that owners should be allowed to spend whatever they want in their play, and it is not crazy to feel that clubs should be allowed to gamble in their natural condition at the whim of a benefactor, or that the entire building is designed to protect, and enshrine, the importance of an established elite. Perhaps the rules, while they are currently standing, are wrong.

Talk is true, too: There is a completely logical case made that F.F.P. is a good thing, that clubs should live within their means, that long-term sports and social institutions that are designated as projects of vanity or play of soft power or devices – laundering for regimes with questionable human rights records is less than perfect. Probably the rules are the rules, and the clubs must follow them, while the tour to change them, rather than choosing and choosing which one they want.

Also, perhaps the Champions League would be better if the giants of Europe played one more often. Perhaps it will be of the best interest of the game if Europe's high profile games are played every Saturday and Sunday, and domestic fixtures in midweek. Maybe the handful of teams from Greece and Poland and Belgium make it just a waste of time.

Or maybe not. Perhaps the elite clubs of Europe – who, in spite of all, have set up an idea for what the Champions League looks like eerily, completely coincidentally, as the idea that UEFA workshop – is at risk to miss their own place in the sky. Maybe changing the Champions League is killing the golden goose. Maybe it works like it does, and it does not need to be changed.

It's perfectly possible to make a case for all of the above, but the question which of them is most convincing – which of them, if any, is correct – is not the most pressing. This is the fact that these questions have, now, been asked, most importantly. The significance of the plan to change the Champions League runs despite its potential impact on domestic tournaments. The consequences of Manchester City's banned possession from the competition in Europe run more than its Etihad Stadium.

In both cases, something deeper is at stake. These stories, in their hearts, when everything else falls – the acronyms and the arguments and everything else – is about who gets to run in European soccer, whose voice is bringing the most weight, and who responds to whom.

The Champions League fixture to suit the demands of the biggest, richest clubs (as of 2019) may come under the banner of UEFA, but it will not be in the UEFA order. It suggests that power, indeed, lies in superclubs; that they can shape the competitions they have entered into their benefit; that UEFA is a brand, a rubber-stamp, an administrator, a licensing commission.

If UEFA fails to listen to the recommendations of its own investigators – if the City ban is their sanction – it will prove At the same time, the FFP has effectively ended, with the rising elite of Manchester City and Paris St.-Germain, supported by Abu Dhabi and Qatar, has the right to renounce the rules; that clubs who built their business models around the new reality became stupid; that Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA president elected by a treaty of associations from Central and Eastern Europe, away from the big five leagues, could not withstand the pressure of big money and the old elite; that, ultimately, UEFA has not listened to its own investigators, and that it may or may not enforce its own policies.

That's the clarity; everything else is fug.

Maybe all for the best. Perhaps it would be better if UEFA was not the true source of power in any European soccer. Perhaps it's time to accept what's good for the Premier League, or P.S.G, is not as good for Bulgaria, and Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Maybe the time of the great church and the consensus is over. Perhaps it's time to cut small countries loose, to stop even the pretense of wealth sharing.

Or maybe it is not. Perhaps handling game controls in a cartel of superclubs, or allowing state states to run teams according to their own, unchecked desires, dangers that do not allow everyone out of the little wrinkle.

Maybe the game should run for the elite. Maybe the game should run for everyone. Either way, we approach a hundredth way. Our later travel direction will tell us more than how many Champions League games will take place on the weekend, or if Manchester City will feature them. It will tell us where, surely, the power now lies.


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